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Monday, October 18, 2010

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

I happened across a wonderful resource this morning on the way to work: Intelligence Squared, which is a UK based organisation that stages debates around the world.  The debates are held in the traditional Oxford Style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events. Typically, those attending vote prior to and after a debate, and the winning debate team is decided by which way the vote swings.  So, for instance, if prior to the debate the audience favors the propositions by 55% but after only 51% favor it, then the opposing team is considered to have won the debate.  The debate I listened to this morning was hosted by Intelligence Squared US, and the proposition under consideration was, "Islam is a Religion of Peace." A team of two individuals argued for the proposition and a team of two argued against it. Those arguing in favor were Zeba Kahn and Maajid Nawaz; those arguing against it were Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. Here's their bios from the Intelligence Squared US website:



Zeba Kahn is a writer and advocate for Muslim-American civic engagement. Born and raised in Ohio by devout Muslim parents, she attended Hebrew school for 9 years all while actively participating in her local Muslim community. In 2008, she launched Muslim-Americans for Obama, an online network to mobilize Muslim-American voters in support of the Obama presidential campaign. Since then, she continues to work on issues of Muslim-American civic engagement and was recognized for her work by the American Society for Muslim Advancement as a 2009 Muslim Leader of Tomorrow.

Maajid Nawaz is director of the Quilliam Foundation. Formerly, Nawaz served on the UK national leadership for the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), and was involved in HT for almost 14 years. He was a founding member of HT in Denmark and Pakistan and eventually served four years in an Egyptian prison as a “prisoner of conscience” adopted by Amnesty International. In prison, Maajid gradually began changing his views until finally renouncing the Islamist Ideology for traditional Islam and inclusive politics.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and raised a devout Muslim. She escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992 and served as a member of the Dutch parliament for 3 years. She has since become an active critic of fundamentalist Islam, an advocate for women's rights and a leader in the campaign to reform Islam, establishing the AHA Foundation in 2007.

Douglas Murray is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. He is also founder and director of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), a non-partisan think-tank in Westminster, London, which focuses on radicalization and has published work on both Islamist and far-right extremism.

What's great is that anybody with access to the Internet can listen or watch this debate (or any of the Intelligence Squared US debates). Just click on the following link (i.e., "Islam is a Religion of Peace"), and you will be taken to the appropriate website where you can choose to watch the debate, listen to the debate or (for those of you in a hurry) listen to an edited version of the debate.  If you can, don't look at polling the results before listening to the debate. Also, check out all of the other debates available. It looks like there are some good ones.

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